Secretary-General’s remarks to the press at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan (28 March 2017)
Secretary-General: [inaudible] …I have been to Zaatari about ten times. Remembering six years ago when I was seeing the first Syrian refugees coming over the border, how sad it is, how terrible it is, that today we still have Zaatari camp full with Syrian refugees, and that the tragedy of Syria is going on and on and on.
Now that the Geneva peace talks have started again, I want to make a very strong appeal to the parties to the conflict and, especially on the countries that have an influence on the parties to the conflict, to understand that we must make peace; to understand that this became a tragedy not only for the Syrian people but it became a threat to the stability of the region and a global security threat to the world as terrorism is benefiting from the crisis in Syria, and several other crises around the world. This is the moment for all countries that are involved, directly or indirectly in the conflict, to put aside their differences and understand that now there is a common interest and the common interest from the fact that they are all threatened by the new risk of global terrorism.
I hope that that if all countries that have an influence on the Syrian situation are able to come together these refugees, that are living here artificially, now for more than four years in this camp will be able to restart their lives again, to find jobs, to work, to have a normal life.
At the same time, I think it’s important to say that they would not be here without the generosity of the Jordanian people and the Jordanian government. But Jordan was left largely without enough international solidarity, receiving such a large number of Syrian refugees, after refugees from Iraq, after the Palestinian refugees. Jordan was always very generous in receiving and hosting millions of refugees but there has not been enough humanitarian aid for the refugees themselves and, especially, not enough aid for the communities that are hosting them, to increase their resilience, their capacity to face this challenge, and not enough support for Jordan itself a country with a vulnerable economy, a pillar of stability in this region that would need much more international solidarity to be able to cope with this enormous challenge.
We are seeing in this world more and more doors closed for refugees. It’s difficult for Syrians now to flee the country and it’s difficult for those who are in this camp to see any horizon, or to have any countries to receive them. The opportunities are less and less meaningful. People are being more and more left alone. This is the moment to say that if the world fails to support refugees, the world is only helping those like Daesh and al Qaida that use these arguments in order to be able to recruit more people to put at risk our global security. Solidarity with Syrian refugees is also a way to be able to express our capacity to guarantee global security. It’s not only an act of generosity. It’s also an act of enlightened self-interest.
My appeal to the international community: increase humanitarian aid to the refugees, increase solidarity to countries like Jordan and Lebanon, and others receiving Syrian refugees, and make sure that more opportunities are given to these refugees, and make sure that all those that have an influence on the parties to the conflict come together to put an end to this tragedy.
Question on funding cuts from the US and the famine in South Sudan:
Secretary-General: I sincerely hope that when the process is clarified, when the process will move, that the traditional expression of solidarity of the American people will not stop. At the same time, we will be mobilizing all other actors in Europe, in the Gulf, in many other parts of the world, to increase solidarity to the Syrian refugees and all others that are living in different circumstances that are needing solidarity and humanitarian assistance. This is not the moment to reduce solidarity. This is the moment to increase solidarity.
South Sudan is an enormous tragedy. We are working together with IGAD and the African Union to see if it is possible put an end to the conflict, to make sure that there is a cessation of hostilities, that there is an inclusive national dialogue in South Sudan and that humanitarian aid is able to reach, without impediments, those in need. There is still a long way to go and, unfortunately, we are witnessing in South Sudan a tragedy that breaks our hearts and makes us feel sometimes powerless when you look at the dramatic suffering of these people. Just a few years ago they came to a moment of independence full of hope that a new future was coming and, unfortunately, they are facing now a terrible tragedy.
Question on Staffan de Mistura and the ‘safe zones’ in Syria:
SG: Staffan de Mistura is doing an amazing job with my full confidence. He managed to bring together all parties to the conflict in Geneva. Talks are going on and I wish him the best success together with all those that are meeting with him. I strongly hope that this will be an important first step on the way to a comprehensive political solution.
Let’s be clear, it’s very important to fight terrorism but the fight against terrorism in Syria will not be successful if a political solution will not be found as well.
If some areas can be made safe and people can live there well, this is a positive thing. The only thing I always mention is that safe zones should not undermine the right to seek and enjoy asylum. They should not be prisons. At the same time, it’s also important to say that we have an experience in the past of safe zones that have failed. If any safe zone is to be built there needs to be absolute guarantees that the safety zone is fully put in place.
Question on Secretary-General’s expectations of the Arab Summit:
Secretary-General: In all aspects, Arab solidarity is very important. My appeal is for Arab countries to come together, in unity. It’s a fact that many times, when Arab countries are divided, it has allowed others to intervene and to manipulate situations, creating instability, breeding conflict and facilitating the lives of terrorist organizations.
I think that Arab unity is a very important element in order to allow this region to be stabilized and for these people, the Syrian refugees, to find again a future that corresponds to their aspirations.